Family History Center

Earl Belt, a volunteer with the Family History Center, explains the various resources available for those interested in genealogy. The center is located at 1201 W. Clifton Ave.

Journal photo by Joanne Fox

Persons interested in genealogical research can be linked into the expansive Family History Library in Salt Lake City through the Sioux City Family History Center.

The center is located at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1201 W. Clifton Ave., and is under the direction of Sylvia Castle, who is assisted by seven volunteers. The facility is free and open to the public.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints established Family History Centers, nonprofit genealogical libraries, in 1964. Sioux City volunteer Earl Belt estimated the local center opened in 1976, the same year as the popular television series, "Roots" aired.

"I saw an announcement for training with the center at that time and decided I would take the training to be a volunteer," he explained. "I've been here ever since."

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City was established in 1894 to acquire a variety of genealogy items. The opportunity for genealogical research is not limited to the U.S. There are about 3,400 Family History Centers in almost 80 countries staffed by more than 25,000 volunteers.

Locally, folks are just curious about their ancestry, Belt noted.

"But occasionally we do have people looking for very specific information," he said. "Recently, we worked with a group of Native Americans for about a year to trace some ancestry that was important to determine who owned some land in Minnesota."

The Salt Lake City Family History Library contains more than 2 million microfilm rolls of genealogical information, 742,000 microfiche, around 300,000 books, and 4,500 magazines.

"About 85 percent of the two million rolls may be loaned to any Family History Center," Belt said.

That information includes vital statistics, such as births, deaths and marriages, census records, church records, military records, ships' manifests and much more. Again, it's not just United States records, but information from Canada, Great Britain, Europe, Latin American countries, Australia, and Africa.

There are modest fees associated with accessing microfilms and microfiche from Salt Lake City, mostly to cover the cost of the film and postage to and from Utah, Belt said.

"But there is no charge for the use of our computers or any other information we have locally, he added. "We have four computer, four film readers and two microfiche readers. We will be training individuals from the Nebraska Indian Community College on our equipment because we have a lot of information on the Santee Sioux."

Belt felt the main reason people would benefit from the center is the knowledge that the volunteers can provide.

"We can help direct individuals to resources they might never think of," he said. "Also, people come in thinking to research grandma and grandpa and don't understand the wealth of information that can be discovered when you start looking at extended family -- aunts, uncles, cousins."

Interested persons may also find more information about the Salt Lake City library at its website, familyresearch.org. However, Belt pointed out that not all information can be found online.

"We have forms, instructions and numerous research volumes here," he said. "We can also provide assistance in getting people started with researching the records of their ancestors.

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